I’m Not Doing Squat For My 1-Year-Old’s Birthday Party

baby eating cakeIn less than a month, my son Holt will be celebrating his first birthday. I should probably send out invitations. But, actually, he won’t be celebrating anything.

My son can sort of mumble, “nanamamadada,” not, “Hey Mom! It’s my first birthday? What the hell have you planned for me?”

I was meeting a friend for a drink last week and I told her, “Holt has no friends.” This is true. He has lots of sisters and a ton of people who love him, but friends? Um, no. This is because the dude still can’t talk, and his greatest skill is clapping his hands. In any case, I’m not throwing him a birthday party.

When my daughter turned one, almost 10 years ago, her father and I threw probably the best birthday party in the entire history of 1-year old birthday parties at our house. I hired a magician. I hired an artist to do caricatures of the kids. I ordered an Elmo cake. I had it catered with servers handing out mini grilled cheeses for the toddlers and appetizers for the adults. I also hired a bartender to serve drinks to the parents. Thinking back, it actually wasn’t so much a birthday party as it was an adult afternoon cocktail party, with about 40 parents and their children who were in the basement watching the magician and, oh, right! There was also a puppeteer.

Dear God. WHAT WAS I THINKING? To say I went ALL OUT is an understatement. But it was my first child and what the heck did I know about throwing a 1-year-old birthday party? All the parents had a fabulous time, so much that I couldn’t get them out of the house. My daughter? Well, my daughter, who we did this all for basically just cried the entire time. She looked adorable in her birthday dress, which was bought for the big occasion, but, hey, she was only one and missed her naptime, so she was a cranky little fuck.

So, now that I know better, I’m not doing a birthday party.

Also, my son does not need gifts. He has so many toys that if one more person tries to bring a toy into the house I will shoo them away. Plus, while my son likes toys, he’s also more than happy to play with a damn plastic cup or tennis ball. I may invite a handful of family members to watch him shove his hand in the cake (isn’t that the most important part of a 1-year-old birthday party so you can take a picture?) Or maybe I won’t even get a damn cake. Maybe he’ll get a cupcake. Why? He has exactly two and a half teeth and can’t eat cake, unless I blend it up.

In fact, I told my daughter to organize her brother’s birthday party and she’s thrilled. She’s inviting all her stuffed animals. Which is great! They can’t eat cake! They can’t cry! They can’t mess up the house! Instead of spending probably almost a thousand dollars, as I did on my daughter’s first birthday, I plan to spend no more than $20 on my son. I know better now.

Let’s be honest. No 1-year-old remembers their first birthday. They may want to see a photo of themselves later in life, sticking their hand in a cake or cupcake, and I will do that. But there will be no loot bags, because what the heck do my parents or adult brothers or his sisters need a loot bag for? I’m not even going to decorate and put up a happy birthday banner.

Do I feel bad about this? Absolutely not. Because, really, a 1-year-old birthday party is more for the parents than it is for the child. As for gifts – because I know his grandparents will ask what he wants – I’m just going to say, “Buy him some plastic cups or a tennis ball.”

There will be many, many years for birthday parties where I will probably go all out. But I’ll wait until my son can do more than clap his hands and can maybe say the word, “birthday.”

(photo: Katrina Brown / Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Rebecca Eckler, on twitter.
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    • Rachel Jones

      I say cake/cupcake + a few guests = a small party. My baby turns one soon and we’re doing pretty much the same thing. We’ll have cake, a few family members, streamers and balloons, sing Happy Birthday and call it a party. We did the same for my oldest. Too much celebrating can be stressful for the little ones.

    • http://twitter.com/witavorr AE Vorro

      Amen! I always wonder why people go nuts for the early birthdays when they don’t really have to. Why not wait until the kid is old enough to want a party? Why put yourself through that? Seems like the more humane approach for the parents and if anyone needs a break, it’s them!

      On a different not, I am, astonished that a puppeteer, caterers, magician, bartender, and caricaturist cost less than a thousand dollars! Even ten years ago. That’s some solid party planning!!!

      • code4food

        That’s how I feel also. My daughter can have her party when she’s old enough to ask for one.

      • prisat

        Well… That is called as PEER PRESSURE… Ladies particularly fancy these things and what is the point really ?
        It is just for the parents satisfaction rather than the baby’s ? All idiots, after all we mapped colours to gender to make sure toy and clothing companies have income through out the year, through out the life time :).

    • CrazyFor Kate

      Given how ridiculous kids’ parties have gotten, that’s probably a good plan. It would be one thing if he knew what’s going on, but he’s just a baby, for heaven’s sake. Having his siblings fuss over him and getting to eat cake will probably be more than enough!

      My mom had a birthday party for me, but it was a joint birthday with another baby from the NICU, so it was a kind of “look at us, our kids are alive” thing. Certainly they didn’t go all-out. And there are some pretty cute pictures of the two of us stumbling around.

      • wils

        but that is an entirely different thing. am glad your little one is doing well (and his birthday mate too!)

      • CrazyFor Kate

        It was me and another little girl – I definitely don’t have kids! But thanks!

    • Blah

      Some close family members, an excuse to eat cake, and another excuse to take pictures of your child in an embarrassingly adorable outfit.
      Toddler b-day parties are definitely for the family, not the completely unaware child. They’re so parents can go ‘omg we made it through a year alive’ and for grandparents to have special moments with their grandkids.

    • msenesac

      Absolutely! I went to a bday party for a one year old (the parent’s rented out the park) and it was ridiculous. The mom was completely stressed out, the birthday boy was upset because he had to skip his nap (and he ended up having an allergic reaction to the dye in the cake icing), and the parents had to open up all the gifts while the boy sat with his grandmother. When my son (my first child) turned 1 in January, we said no gifts (he didn’t need anything) and no guests. It was just my husband, son and I with a cake and a few balloons.

      • Jim King

        That’s maybe too far the other way. Inviting a few people over is fine – just skip the magician, servers, artist, and bartender. (I still can’t believe anyone would do that…for a first birthday…for a kid not even capable of remembering any of it…)

    • Jen

      Agreed. Why waste money if the point is to make your kiddo happy? They are usually happy not having a ton of people, most they don’t know, picking at them!

    • Zanya

      I don’t think I had any kind of “party” until my 6th birthday or so…Though I loved Christmas (as evidenced by a couple of video tapes) because I got to play with the fascinating wrapping paper. I ignored my presents completely, who needs toys when you’ve got gift paper?

    • http://www.facebook.com/ragankellams Ragan Kellams

      I had a big party for my sons 1st birthday and he had a BLAST! Of course I went way overboard and looking back on it now, I’m like wow, i went a little crazy on that robot-themed extravaganza! But honestly, I wouldnt change a thing. He loved it, I loved it and all our friends and family loved it.

      • wils

        the kid was a year old. how dumb. you could have saved your money and done up something nice for like when he would actually understand what was going on. geez. poor kid.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000476240203 Brittany Erickson

      Glad to know that I am not the only one who thinks throwing big bashes for a one year old is stupid! To be honest hubby and I used our daughter’s first birthday as an excuse to bbq lol. We ate some good food and cake and our daughter went to bed. Now that she is older and will be 6 in July, bigger parties can be more appropriate and the best part? She’ll actually remember it!

    • Rachel Sea

      Good on you. Toddlers don’t need all that fuss. Orchestrate the photo for the keepsake, then get the boy a silicone spatula, and some nesting measuring cups, he’ll be thrilled.

      • Jim King

        Why do people keep congratulating her? What kind of pretentious person with more money than brains does that even the first time? A child that age isn’t capable of appreciating or remembering any of it anyway – something that should have been obvious the first time around.

    • Ancient Culture

      I’m not doing much for my about to be 1 year old, but I admit that what I am doing is mostly for the fun of it.

      One thing to realize about why people have big parties is that for a good part of human history, many babies did not live to see their first birthday, but if they did, they had a good chance of living many more years. So the first birthday was seen as a significant milestone. The party is as much to say “Yay! You’re still alive!” as anything.

      • Trudy Kretschmer

        Yes. For Hawaiians, the first birthday is a huge Luau, for that very reason. After that? Nothing special.

      • Jim King

        It’s a shame infant mortality is still such a huge problem in Hawaii.

      • wils

        nowadays it is just another reason for showing off like a jerk. if you want a party that is huge, go ahead, spend the money, our economy needs it. but if you are normal person and decide not to do so, that is fine too..

      • Jim King

        You make it sound like if those babies made it to their first birthday they had it made after that. It was merely the first hurdle.

    • disqus_GQH9BaFhnu

      i think u should do something how is that fair u celebrated ur other kids 1 yr old birthday but ur son doesnt deserve to have his birth be celebrated? u sound like maybe u resent him or something. why is he or his bday less important then ur daughters?

      • Mel

        You must be new here. It’s Eckler. The world centers around her and her only.

      • Gangle

        Do you really think he will care? I am the second youngest in a family of five kids. By the time I arrived one-year-old birthday parties were no longer a thing in our family. While turning one may be important, a birthday party is not. My first birthday did not get celebrated beyond me getting some cake from the supermarket all over my face and my mother taking a photo as evidence. In no way do I feel less loved or appreciated by my family because of that. I think it may have something to do with not being able to remember it.

    • Vivi’s Mom

      I do not understand the big birthday parties for one year olds either. When my daughter turned one I was lucky since we were living in another state and my MIL rarely visited. We were able to do something with just us, we took her to the zoo, she loves animals and we bought her a cupcake. I had her picture taken in a cute party dress with a balloon background weeks beforehand. We photographed the whole thing including the cupcake smash for a scrapbook and so my MIL would shut up. For her 2nd birthday my husband’s family threw a big production and I personally felt it was a huge waste of time and money. We have since agreed no more parties till she’s old enough to ask about having one so I think like kindergarten age. Now don’t get me wrong I’m all for celebrating birthdays I just think big parties for toddlers are silly.

    • Justme

      I had this conversation with a coworker the other day. For my daughters second birthday we had a big party with friends and kids at her “gymnastics” place. My coworker kept saying “but she won’t remember it.” Probably not, but on that day and in that moment, my daughter was so genuinely excited to have all her people around doing something she loves to do. So perhaps birthday parties when they are so small might seem frivolous, but if it makes your child happy….then why not?

      • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.wooten Courtney Lynn

        I think things like that are fine. It’s in a familiar place with familiar faces and if she’s smiling and having a good time, then that’s great!

    • http://www.facebook.com/courtney.wooten Courtney Lynn

      We’re taking our little guy to the zoo with some of our parent friends, nothing we wouldn’t normally do. We’ll do a BBQ at my mom’s but other than that, nothing. 1-year-olds don’t need a big fuss that would probably overstimulate and scare the shit out of them, anyway. I think big birthday parties for toddlers are more for the parents. I do want to do something so he can have a fun day, but not wear him out and upset him. He will have many more birthdays where he will actually be able to tell me what he wants. This year, though, no themes, no clowns, nothing crazy or fancy.

    • Zoe

      Good for you! And what a wonderful idea to have your daughter organise her own little party for her brother. You should get some really cute photos out of that, and it’ll be great looking at those in the future.

    • Molly

      Way to call your child a “cranky little fuck.” Yet another fine example of how you’re such an ignorant parasite on this planet.

      • Psych Student

        *That* seemed a bit uncalled for.

      • Simone

        Well, I chuckled. My son is quite often a cranky little fuck too. I love him to the point where I would tear the head off anything that tried to hurt him, but he is, quite often, a cranky little fuck.

      • Tessa

        It left a bad taste in my mouth as well. But, you know, everyone that kisses her ass thinks it’s okay to talk about their children in such a horrible way. I’m wondering if they talk *to* them that way.

    • http://www.facebook.com/houde.veronique Véronique Houde

      I’m with you on this… I’m probably gonna have a party with all of our adult friends (and their kids for those couples who have them), but mainly it will be an excuse for us to get together and have a few drinks after the kids are in bed and celebrate the fact that my boyfriend and I just survived a freakin’ year of parenting without killing our child! boo-yeah ;)

      • wils

        you rock. contrast what you are doing with the wonderful “mom” Marie up there that dressed her kid up just to take photos and throw her (like a sack of potatoes) into daycare so she could rush off to work…..how good you are to want to get together with friends and stuff, v. that other person. you rock. I wish you the best always! the other, no.

    • jasdfgh

      I like to have nice events (nice does not automatically mean expensive) parties for my children. Many people have asked me why I do this, because they won’t remember. It doesn’t matter to me that THEY will not remember, because I will. I will remember.

    • Kelly

      I’d just invite the family over for cake and a couple gifts. Nothing wrong with a little celebration, even if he won’t remember.

    • Marie

      On my daughter’s first birthday, we sat her down in the dining room in front of her cake surrounded by all her presents and cards, took her picture with her hand in the cake (and all over her face, pretty dress, hair, etc), and took some pictures of us with her. Then we all got cleaned up, I dropped her at daycare and my husband and I went to work. We were out of the house by 9am.

      • wils

        that is kinda just wrong. you rushed through YOUR child’s birthday to ditch her at daycare? REALLY? next time, get a dog, not a kid.

      • Jim King

        It was a normal day, I guess. I don’t see what’s so wrong about this. I would have waited until later in day to avoid having to rush anything, but whatever.

    • Trudy Kretschmer

      Kudos to you for your brain. I can’t believe people who go “all out” for any kid’s birthday party. Are they royalty? Do they need to be that spoiled? How about saving all of that dough for their a) college fund or b) probable wedding and/or honeymoon. How about saving for a kick ass trip to Europe for their 18th or something along that line? When I see Jump Houses and gifts for all attendees and catered food etc. etc. I shake my head. Whatever happend to “pin the tail on the donkey” and cake and ice cream with some hats and blowers? If that seems lame to kids; then they truly ARE spoiled. A birthday party like that plus cake and ice cream used to get my generation excited out of our minds. Maybe because we were not given “treats’ and gifts on daily basis. These days kids get “birthday” level treatment every freaking day. Way to raise jaded, cynical kids if you ask me.

      • wils

        i hate stupid people and whiny spoiled brat kids. funny thing how those two things seem to happen together. a lot. in fact most of the time.

    • wils

      you are a good person for your decision! that whole first year thing is a pile of crap. other mothers have a need to be superior, be it at breast feeding (who even wants to look at THAT), or parties, or that whole natural birth mess (really….painkillers were invented on purpose for that ). i applaud you for not joining in on the race to insanity promulgated by the other attention getting power hungry “mothers.”

      • dh7771981

        Obviously you lack intelligence and common sense!!! Hope your kids will
        turn out better then you. What a stupid comment! How ignorant some people are!
        Unbelievable!!! I feel sorry for the little ones in your family…

    • http://www.facebook.com/ClownPrincessOfCrimexo Luna James

      alright so….the fact that you threw out thousands of dollars for your kids first birthday is stupid. the kid doesn’t fucking care! i agree with a small scale thing but you could have made the goodies yourself and gotten little things for cheap at Walmart or a small party shop, and been done with it. honestly, if you did that for your son, you wouldn’t spend anywhere near 200 dollars. shit you can even make the damn cake yourself, the kid aint gonna give a fuck hes 1 and doesn’t really know what is going on. i know that every parent wants that 1st birthday to be special, but it can happen and be special without throwing a shit ton of money down the drain, or just not doing one because you think its gonna to be nessasary to throw a big ass thing.

    • glitterbombgirl

      The one thing I know is that I will never, ever miss having that moment when my son was surrounded by people who loved him and sang Happy Birthday to him for the first time. Or his first taste of birthday cake. Or his first silly birthday hat. But… Really… What could I be thinking? Such memories are such a waste, aren’t they? ::sigh:: Sorry that you don’t get it.

    • code4food

      OMG! Your read my mind entirely. I plan on baking my daughter a cupcake but I don’t even want to invite family/friends. I want an intimate evening with just her and my husband.

    • putri

      What ever. I will still do a birthday party for my baby girl. She will get a lot of memorable 1st birthday party pictures like I did. I am happy that my mom did celebration for my first birthday and I will do the same for my baby. We wont know what will happen to us tomorrow, so lets have an excuse to gather with family and friends today, celebrating our precious baby 1st birthday she has been living on earth as long as we can afford it.

    • Mandisa

      Every year my child makes is a very important day in my life simply because he is very important to me. This is going to be his first birthday and if God permits it is gonna be a blessed fun-filled one. Yes!!! he would not be able to remember it but still I just can’t sit back and do nothing. A cupcake??? seriously!!! Having a grand party is a bit extream for a 1 year old but family and very close is what I hope to do.

    • Eric Haan

      Couldn’t agree more! Well, actually I could agree more, as my wife & I sit here in bed trying to pick out invitations for our 1-yr-old’s birthday. We really should know better, considering our 6-yr-old asked today- “Did I have a 1st birthday party?” Hmm, guess he forgot the 40+ people that were there for his Pirate-themed party, where he hit Grampa in the balls w/a plastic sword…

    • Happy Mom

      So sad that u describe your daughter the way you do…with the f-word.

    • Jim King

      I wonder why you couldn’t have figured that out with your daughter’s first birthday – I know she was your first but it should still have been obvious that going to all that trouble (servers and a bartender?) was a total waste of time.

    • Psych Student

      For my 1st birthay, I got an angel food cake with Happy Birthday written in just a little bit of frosting so that way I could stick my hands in it and pull off pieces. The video is *adorable* (and they stopped me from grabbing the flame on the candle – such good parents). All I wanted was something to put my hands in. And it’s not like I look back at that and wonder why I didn’t get more. It’s precious and I can’t wait to do the same when I have kids!

    • Sarah

      I guess I understand where some of you are coming from. I wouldn’t expect anyone to have huge birthday parties. I had a nice birthday for my son with close friends and family at church with cake, ice cream, balloons, and etc. My son will never be able to remember it but he will be able to look back at the scrapbook I made for him and think “Wow, I was loved!” Maybe I went too far with some things, but who cares? I love my son more than anything and what if I pass away and I was never to throw him a party? Or what if a family member passes away, like my mother-in-law? She will never be at another party or will never be able say Happy Birthday to my son ever again. I want him to be able to have everything I can offer and I was able to throw him a First Birthday, there is nothing wrong with that. Whether I have one child or 5, I will do the same for each of them.

    • Jess

      Do you have to describe your precious daughter as a “cranky little f***.”? That’s a name more appropriate for something lowly or scummy…not the gift of a child.

    • Dino

      Wow you got every detail there I feel the same but my mrs wants a big party I’m glad you wrote this I’m going to shove your words in her face.

    • Fanceeist

      Thank goodness in not the only one who feels like a one year old doesn’t need a huge event. Everyone is asking me and I was feeling sort of bad for not going major. Family will come to town and we will do something very small: cake, some decorations and zoo or botanical gardens. Even a picnic depending on the weather.

    • Bob Freeman

      Bravo !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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